Belichick on Mankins: We'll take his situation day-to-day

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Belichick on Mankins: We'll take his situation day-to-day

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

The return of Logan Mankins was the highlight of Bill Belichicks Tuesday conference call. Unsurprisingly, the Patriots coach was happy to have his Pro-Bowl guard back.

"It's good to have him back on the team," Belichick said. "He's part of the team now; he's reported. He's been a tough, smart, dependable player. He's done all those things since he's been here and you can't have too many guys like that on your football team. So we're glad he's back."

When asked if the Patriots had a roster exemption following Mankins' return he replied that the transaction wouldnt be turned in until later in the day. "But I would expect it though, yes," the coach concluded.

As for how the team plans to proceed with playing time, Belichick said he was dealing with the situation "day to day." He made it clear that the team sees no point in dwelling on Mankinss holdout and just wants to move forward.

"I don't want to get into any of that. It doesn't matter; he's here. We're getting ready for Cleveland . . . got a big game on Sunday, so we're getting ready for that. I don't want to rehash anything that's happened in the past."

The coach was quite complimentary of the Browns. He was less focused on Cleveland's overall 2-5 record than its 30-17 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints on Week 7.

"Cleveland is a real physical team; tough, hard-nosed running football team," Belichick said. "They're tough on defense, good in the kicking game. Got some good young players who have stepped up. They don't give up a lot of points. Peyton Hillis has done a good job for them, running the ball, breaking tackles, keeping them in short-yard situations."

It sounds like Hillis is a running back the Patriots will have to key on in particular.

"He's a big physical runner . . . a tough kid who breaks a lot of tackles," Belichick said. "They use him on all three downs. He's in there in sub situations as well. He knows where the goal line is . . . doesn't lose a lot of yardage. He's been impressive."

Who Hillis will be getting the ball from, of course, is not certain. Browns coach Eric Mangini still hasn't picked a starter now going into Week 9. But whether his team faces rookie Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme, Belichick seems as unfazed about Cleveland's quarterback quandary as he was last week with Minnesotas FavreJackson toss-up.

"All the players that are on the roster and eligible to play we'll prepare for," he stated.

Game planning for tight end Benjamin Watson, who was with the Patriots until March of 2010, should be interesting. Belichick said he's definitely happy to see his former player do well with another team. With one minor caveat, of course.

"As long as it's not against us on Sunday. He's a guy who did a good job for us and he's doing a good job in Cleveland."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.